Kenny Bontz has always set some rather lofty goals for himself.
While he’s an above-the-knee amputee, he wanted to compete against able-bodied players, which he achieved when he qualified for the 2010 New Jersey Mid-Amateur, winning his first-round match.
Dominating local and regional amputee events was fine, but Bontz yearned to be the No. 1 player in the country. He accomplished that late last month when he captured the National Amputee Golf Association’s national championship in Virginia Beach, Va.
And Bontz, a seasoned international competitor, has done his part in helping raise world-wide awareness for an incredible group of athletes. So on Friday he will fly to Japan where he will captain a team from the United States at the inaugural World Disabled Golf Championships.
“They’re trying to get golf into the Paralympics, so these international tournaments are very important to show the level of competition as country’s play against one another,” the Farmingdale resident said. “It’s an honor to be selected as the captain. I’m really looking forward to it because we have a very strong team.”
After cutting back his schedule for several years while he focused on a career transition, Bontz, 44, has seen his game steadily improve over the past two years, to the point where his game is now better than it’s ever been.
The results speak for themselves. In addition to winning a handful of tournaments this year, including his fifth club championship at Jumping Brook Country Club in Neptune, Bontz dominated at the national championship.
Contested on the difficult Signature at West Neck course in Virginia Beach, Bontz was 5-under-par after two rounds, before cruising to a final-round 73 and a five-shot victory.
“In past years I might have broken par three or four times,” he said. “This year, I’ve probably been under par 20 times. That’s how well I’ve been scoring. My putting has been very good. I’ve really tried to focus on that aspect of my game.”
In Japan, Bontz will be considered one of the favorites in the deep international field, having competed against many of the top disabled players in the world in recent years. In 2013 he won the Queensland Open in Australia, while finishing third at the Australian Open.
Earlier this year, Bontz finished third at the inaugural World Cup of Disabled Golf in South Africa.
“Competing internationally isn’t easy because most of the country’s we play against have all their expenses taken care of with sponsorships,” he said. “We have to pretty much pay our own expenses, which isn’t easy. We’re working on getting more financial support, and we have a few sponsors helping out with the trip to Japan, but it’s not easy.”
As for his future goals, they’re as lofty as ever.
While the Paralympics would be great, he still yearns to compete against able-bodied golfers, including senior events when he turns 50.
“My time is running out. I’m not getting any younger, so I really want to get as good as I can right now and see what happens,” he added.
Stephen Edelson is an Asbury Park Press columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @SteveEdelsonAPP.
- On September 25, 2014